Open Letter to NC Lawmakers Concerning HB13 and Funding the Arts & PE

Dear Senator Chad Barefoot, Senator Bill Rabon, and other lawmakers concerning the amended HB13 law,

This week marks the beginning of Advanced Placement testing in schools around the country (and world), and while the validity of AP classes and testing results has become the subject of much debate, I have a multitude of students working hard to do well on those exams.

The state of North Carolina seems to put a lot of emphasis on AP tests. In fact, the General Assembly actually pays for each administration of an AP test (over $90 per) in public schools. It’s a measure of success apparently to see how many students are actually taking the tests in the state. And if it is increasing success overall for students, then that is good.

Maybe that’s the same reasoning that goes into the forced administration of the ACT in North Carolina public schools. Making every student in public schools, whether they are invested in the test or whether they have no inclination of entering college, take a test that gives really no more feedback than a score point has become another source of measurement that lawmakers use to judge the public school system.

Either way, some company is making of a lot of money from the tax payers to create a measure to arbitrarily see how well our North Carolinian students are performing. And decision makers like yourselves seem to take a lot of stock in arbitrary test results, especially in comparison with the results of other countries.

But there are many variables that a test cannot measure which are vital to student success and our state’s health – variables like creativity, inventiveness, collaboration, teamwork, and innovation whose ingredients are found in classes like visual arts, music, physical education. Ironically, those are the very classes in jeopardy next year with the porous version of HB13 passed this past week.

Valerie Strauss writes and publishes an educational blog called “The Answer Sheet”. It is published primarily through the Washington Post and is widely read. The following is from a February 13, 2017 posting entitled “Three global indexes show that U.S. public schools must be doing something right.”

It starts,

Nancy Truitt Pierce is a member of the Monroe School Board in Washington state who was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to his STEM Alliance Advisory Board. In her day job, she is a consultant who convenes monthly peer group meetings of top executives in Seattle and hears what they are looking for when recruiting new employees. What do they want?

 Here’s what she wrote in an email:

 What I hear from the key corporate leaders I meet monthly with is that they want candidates coming out of our public schools who are creative, innovative, collaborative problem solvers. Yes, the candidates must also have strong foundational skills of math, science and language arts but I suggest we are putting too much emphasis on the PISA math score as a key indicator of public school quality. I suggest there are other indicators that would serve us in much better ways (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/13/three-global-indexes-show-that-u-s-public-schools-must-be-doing-something-right/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.40a032ddd1c3).

I chose this particular part of the posting because of Ms. Pierce’s job as a consultant with business executives and as a STEM proponent. Interestingly, her words about creativity reminded me of the recent debate that you and others simply avoided when it concerned the arts and its funding in our elementary schools when HB13 was front and center.

Later in the posting there is a reference to three specific indicators that measure the very elements of creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

 We win where it matters. If you look at other indicators more related to innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, the USA does very well.

To be clear, the Global Creativity Index “ is a broad-based measure for advanced economic growth and sustainable prosperity based on the 3Ts of economic development — talent, technology, and tolerance” (http://martinprosperity.org/content/the-global-creativity-index-2015/).

The Global Innovation Index? Look at some of the indicators (https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2016-report).

AP2

The Global Entrepreneurship Index utilizes the “Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index’s (GEDI) 14 Pillars of Entrepreneurship as its primary measurement.

  • Pillar 1: OPPORTUNITY PERCEPTION
  • Pillar 3: NONFEAR OF FAILURE
  • Pillar 4: NETWORKING
  • Pillar 5: CULTURAL SUPPORT
  • Pillar 8: HUMAN RESOURCES
  • Pillar 13: INTERNATIONALIZATION

All of those variables are directly attributable to skills learned in classes like visual art, music, and physical education. The items listed under the Global Innovation Index concerning investment in education brings to mind the very heart of the discussion of bills like HB13 and HB800 and other initiatives that take monies away from public schools and put them into unproven methods of education that actually segregate rather than allow for us to collaborate.

And Nancy Pruitt Pierce says we need more people who collaborate. More people who are creative. More people who are innovative.

Does the ACT measure those elements? Do the EOCT’s? Maybe to a very small, small degree.

One could make an argument that the AP tests could measure for those items, because students are often asked to elaborate or be required to show their thought processes or support their arguments. In fact, here is a prompt from the 2014 administration of the AP English Language and Composition Test.

AP1

The part of the prompt that states, “the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade” has the decline that is the “most serious” really seems to fit into the dialogue here in North Carolina.

I would very much like to see how many of you would respond to this prompt. Actually, I would like to see you make a coherent argument for your actions to jeopardize funding for the very classes that essentially foster those very skills that others testify are crucial to building stable economic futures in our state and country.

If you do offer that argument, make sure to back up your claims with hard evidence and verifiable data as well as explain how that evidence and data support your claims – out loud and clearly.

Not behind closed doors or in secret sessions.

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